EFR - Reviews of A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

Sun 11th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Georgina Wilson

at 22:56 on 11th Aug 2013

2agrees

0disagrees

Good old Jeeves and Worcester always had jolly spiffing English accents, and Peter Pan is such a fairytale classic about growing old, and isn’t it so totally edgy to have puppets, and wouldn’t it be a great metaphor to have a stage within a stage, and really don’t you think more shows should be multi-media and have singing overlapping with speech overlapping with mime and everything you could possibly want from theatre all wrapped up and presented in a parcel of originality? No. Not really. Because the result will be something all too similar to the hour-long befuddlement that is 'A Matter of Life and Death'.

It isn’t that the premise of the plot is too tricky for me to even try and explain (although it is pretty inexplicable), it’s more that the abstract symbolism is so eager to be heard that it drowns out any clear sense of what is actually going on. The dialogue is often drowned out by song, too, but that’s another story. The cast are all undoubtedly very capable singers (I know this from the full thirty seconds of rousing, typically “musical”-type song that comes pretty near the beginning). The sad thing is that most of the time these voices are kept under the wraps of the odd un-catchy song, interspersed with the ooh-ing and aah-ing of a backing track to a lead singer who never quite arrives. Unless it’s the teddy, actually, who makes pretty regular appearances. Said teddy also reaffirms the show’s self-offering as the product of a child’s fantastic imagination; one of many intriguing ideas which would have worked well had the play been dramatically less cluttered with them.

A child’s imagination, however fantastic, might be expected to be fairly limited in its depiction of gender, but it was here that all the pent-up innovation flourished. Jonas Moore plays the female part of June with striking maturity and effectiveness, although when the female population increased to three more boys wearing pink floral hairbands which should only be seen on the head of Professor Umbridge, the effect is somewhat lost.

We end, as we began, with some Shakespeare. Puck, in fact, 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'. It’s yet another note-worthy strand of the show that becomes a mere doodle on a page full of notes. According to that ancient theatrical disclaimer, we “have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear”. Thought-provoking visions they may have been; coherent, attention-grabbing visions they were not.

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Helena Blackstone

at 09:46 on 12th Aug 2013

2agrees

0disagrees

This is a truly original and aesthetically delicious production that enchants with its sweet, romantic premise, and the judicial appeal against the courts of heaven that follows: "...nothing is stronger than the law in the universe, but on Earth, nothing is stronger than love." The frame narrative of this production is slightly altered; the story is now told by a small, teddy-bear clutching boy in pyjamas who watches the characters’ actions all the way through. But this does not mean it is turned into a children’s production; rather, it adds excuse for playful physical theatre, tongue-in-cheek acting, and a certain Wes Anderson-esque childish quirk.

Conuctor 71, played by Greg Coates, makes the show with his delightfully suave charisma, much like in the original film. June is played by a boy, but this is no barrier; Jonas Moore’s performance adds charm and if you close your eyes you will hear that he has managed to imitate the diction of a 1940's Hollywood actress. I was slightly confused as to why this production had added a few girls in extra bit parts. To me, this was distracting and I felt they should have run with an all male cast, or found a girl to play the female part, though it would have been a shame to lose Jonas in this part. Christian Hines, is very well cast for the part of Peter Carter, and Charlie Raines makes an amusing and charming Dr. Frank Reeves.

Louise Furlong has done an amazing job with the set design, which is gorgeous with its detailed set painting, evocative of some of the original technicolour setting of the film, and lush materials. The use of the onstage box through which scenes flit in and out is truly imaginative, and adds to the idea of a magical world, suggestive of Punch and Judy boxes or Narnian wardrobes.

The physical theatre is not the focus of the show, but a visual enhancement which keeps the energy of the piece up and adds to its playfulness. A troupe of pyjama’d little boys (those listening to the story) move the set across the stage and are mostly invisible to the characters on stage, except for some unacknowledged playful interaction. They are highly polished in a way that is remarkable for a school production; this show is ready for a bigger audience.

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